The year 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution (AJCR). Looking back over the 16 issues in which 81 articles and 26 book reviews were published, we are reminded of the original vision held for the journal – that of developing the academic field of conflict resolution in the context of Africa. Our objective was to contribute to theoretical perspectives and suggestions towards adapting and improving conflict resolution.
We also hoped to provide a genuine space for academics and students to exchange and record ideas, debates, discoveries, insights and trends within the fields of conflict resolution on the continent.
Over the decade, the journal has dealt with issues pertaining to conflict resolution and peacebuilding across the African continent, including South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Somalia and Sierra Leone. Contributors have written on resource-related conflict issues such as access to water, agriculture and oil; cattle rustling; conflict and environmental degradation; ethnicity and conflict; women in conflict and peacebuilding; and the issue of child soldiers. Further areas covered since 1999 include mediation at regional and international levels as well as peacebuilding and transformation from below; truth and reconciliation commissions and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and the media, social capital and contexts of democracy and development. There have also been three special issues of the journal devoted to the specific themes of electoral systems, elections and conflict mitigation in southern Africa (2004, 4.2); African identity and cultural diversity in conflict resolution (2007, 7.2); and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state (2008, 8.2).
The 2004 special issue on elections focused on electoral systems, constitutionalism and conflict management in southern Africa. Khabele Matlosa reminded us of how elections, electoral systems, constitutionalism and conflict management enhance or undermine democratic governance. Lloyd Sachikonye, profiling Zimbabwe, warned that ‘Zimbabwe finds itself at a crossroads in electoral and constitutional terms. …The country continues to be in the…spotlight largely because of the concern that if reforms and political compromise remain elusive, the country could experience greater instability’. Mpho Molomo, writing on Botswana, pointed out that although the country does not experience electoral violence or political instability, its first-past-the-post electoral system impacts on fair political competition. Francis Makoa, profiling the Lesotho electoral system, highlighted a need for moving beyond a written constitution to inculcating democratic attitudes. The Mozambique case study by Irae Lundin profiled a country emerging from sixteen years of armed war with its first democratic elections taking place in 1994. Dren Nupen, writing on the South African electoral system, pointed out that the proportional representative method of elections utilised at provincial and national level constricts contact between citizens and their elected representatives. It also may affect the oversight responsibility of parliamentarians who are at the behest of party leadership. The Tanzania case study, authored by Hassan Kaya, dealt with authoritarian tendencies which emerge when a constitution is frequently amended to favour the executive branch of government.
In the special issue on identity and cultural diversity, published in 2007, Gerard Hagg and Peter Kagwanja argued that the emergence of intra-state wars based on identity requires a reconfiguring of existing conflict resolution mechanisms. The special issue profiled identity-based conflict in Sudan – ‘the bridge between the Arab Muslim world and Black Africa’; historical state identity and inter-identity relations in Ethiopia; cultural diversity in Somalia; ethnicity, African nationalism and political cohesion in South Africa; ‘ethnic competition’ and resource-related conflict in the Niger Delta; latent cultural and linguistic diversity in Cameroon; ethnicity in the DRC; and the ‘blood feud’ in Burundi.
In 2008, a special issue on Nigeria was inspired by the way the country’s complexities, challenges and prospects for long-term peace mirror the rest of Africa’s current socio-economic and political climate. Despite significant natural resources and political as well as economic reforms, many countries in Africa continue to struggle with conflicts around socio-economic inequalities, environmental and natural resources and access to political power. The special issue dealt with the protracted conflict in the Niger Delta where profits from oil production are channelled to oil companies and politicians and do not benefit local communities already frustrated by under-development and a degrading environment. It also highlighted the shrinking of Lake Chad in the Sahara desert, which poses a serious environmental threat. The issue further focused on political threats to peace, democracy and social justice as well as on methods of dealing with conflict through arbitration.
Looking forward to the next ten years of the African Journal on Conflict Resolution, we hope to further establish the objectives of the journal and are particularly dedicated to exploring areas in which the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) engages. These areas include not only conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation but also issues relating to peacemaking and peacebuilding on the African continent. To this end, the journal would ideally like to engage with research and practical experiences on the fault lines and triggers for conflict; leadership (positive and spoiler); mediation, dialogue and peace processes; land disputes; environmental conflict; resource-related conflict; conflict, power sharing and elections; and the nexus between development and conflict.
The journal has expanded its guidelines for authors in order to meet its objectives. Its Editorial Board at ACCORD, and its Peer Advisory Panel will work to enrich the publication through more intensive collaboration with authors. The Editorial Board has also formally stated the journal policy and outlined the greater ACCORD vision in the hopes that contributors and readers alike can contextualise the debates raised accordingly.
We therefore welcome submissions by authors new and old as we strive to contribute to contemporary theoretical debates in the field of African conflict resolution and hope to impact upon efforts towards the consolidation of peace in Africa.
We take this opportunity to thank all our past contributors, editorial staff and advisors. The following members of our advisory panel have rendered their valued services for the numbers of years indicated after their names: Prof Cleophas Lado (4), Prof Makumi Mwagiru (4), Prof Mahmood Mamdani (5), Prof Tandeka Nkiwane (9), Prof Jane Parpart (9), Dr Alejandro Bendaí±a (10).
We would like to pay particular tribute to Professor Jakes Gerwel, a member of the ACCORD Board of Trustees, who is one of the founding editors of the journal. Without his insight and dedication, the vision of producing an African Journal on Conflict Resolution would not have been possible.